Disclaimer: I do not own anything other than the story line . All rights belong to J.K. Rowling
To Walk Into the Dragon's Den
Chapter One: "Revelations"
He hadn't realized just how hard it would be afterwards. The funerals were the worst of all. He had thought that bringing down the greatest Dark Lord of all time would be the absolute worst thing that he would ever face in his life. In this, Harry thought, he was definitely mistaken.
He stood there, just outside the small chapel in Hogsmeade, not knowing if he could get himself to go in. He had made a promise to himself that he would personally attend each and every one of the funerals for those that had died during the climactic battle at Hogwarts castles a week ago. He just hadn't thought that it would be this hard.
This funeral especially was hard for Harry. This was the funeral for the man that had been his favorite professor during his six years at Hogwarts and his wife: Remus and Nymphadora Lupin. He just didn't know if he could do it now. He hadn't counted on the rush of guilt and depression that had washed over him as he approached the chapel.
As he was standing there outside the door, lost in contemplation, he felt a small hand settle itself upon his shoulder. Startled out of his reverie, he turned around with a jump and a slight gurgle of surprise. There behind him was a person that he both wished to see beyond anything else in the world and dreaded seeing as well: Ginny Weasley.
Ginny giggled despite herself at the expression on Harry's face. He just looked so adorable standing there, all the conflicting emotions crossing his countenance in the flash of a heartbeat. Quickly sobering her expression she smiled demurely at him, trying her hardest to reassure him with her presence. It must have worked, for she saw some of the stress drain from his features.
"Harry? Are you okay? I saw you standing there and I thought…" she let the rest go unsaid.
"Yeah, I'm alright Ginny. I just didn't expect it to be so hard, you know?" he replied. Regardless of his fears where this young woman was concerned, he felt some of his tension drain at simply being able to express his feelings to her.
"I know how you feel. I thought that I was going to faint dead away at Fred's funeral yesterday," she replied. "Anyway, I talked to Mum, and told her that for this one I would really like to sit next to you, if you don't mind of course" she said, casting her eyes to the floor.
"I'd really like that Gin," he said with his first real grin in what seemed to be ages. He extended his elbow and she slipped her hand through it easily. They proceeded into the small shrine. There really weren't a lot of people there, but there were more than Harry had expected. It seemed that anyone that had survived from Harry's house of Gryffindor had showed up for the funeral. There were some from Hufflepuff there as well, but then, Tonks had been a member of that house during her years at Hogwarts. As many of the aurors that could be off duty were there for the ceremony as well.
They looked around and found that they could only find one set of seats available for the two of them: right next to a middle aged woman in the front row holding a small baby in her arms. Harry of course recognized her at once as Andromeda Tonks, mother of Nymphadora Tonks. They sat down and Harry turned towards her. "Hello Mrs. Tonks. I'm, err… really sorry for your loss…" Harry was never really good at expressing things like this.
"Hello Harry," said Mrs. Tonks, smiling sadly at Harry. "It's really good to see you again. I'm so glad that you made it through this."
Harry really didn't know how to respond to this, considering that the war had cost Mrs. Tonks her husband, daughter, and son-in-law; leaving her to raise her grandson alone. "Is that Teddy?" Harry asked, changing the subject.
"Yes Harry, this is Teddy, your godson. You haven't seen him before this, have you?"
"No ma'am, I haven't" Harry gulped. He looked down at the sleeping child. His hair was a shocking pink. Harry felt his heart leap into his throat. As he was looking at him Teddy opened his eyes and looked at Harry. He gurgled excitedly and as he did so his hair turned jet black, a small lightning bolt scar appearing across his forehead. Harry's draw dropped in astonishment and he heard Ginny's gasp of disbelief behind him.
"It appears that he likes you Harry. I have to go and give the eulogy. Would you and Ms. Weasley watch him for me while I do that? I was going to do it with Teddy on my hip, but it would be a lot easier…" she looked at him expectantly.
Harry gulped again. He looked over at Ginny who smiled back at him warmly. "Sure Mrs. Tonks, we'd be happy to" he said, reaching out tentatively to take his godson. Surprisingly, Teddy felt right at home in his arms. He turned to Ginny and couldn't help himself. He was grinning from ear to ear. He didn't notice the look of relief behind him on the faces of Ron and Hermione, sitting a few rows back.
After the funeral was over Harry and Ginny stopped to chat with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and their family. "Gin, would you mind if I caught up with you at the Burrow a little later? I'd like to talk to Ron and Hermione about something." Seeing her puzzled and slightly disappointed look he plunged on. "I'll explain everything later, don't worry."
"Alright Harry, whatever you need to do. I'll see you at the Burrow." She grabbed her father's arm and he side-along apparated them out of the village.
"Ron! Hermione! I need to talk to the two of you if you have a few minutes" Harry called to his two best friends.
"Sure Mate, we always have time for you." Ron called back. Harry walked over to the two of them.
"Let's walk up to the castle, if you don't mind, I've got something that I need to do." He looked expectantly at his friends, and upon seeing they agreed they set off for the castle.
"Look, Ron, I've got something I need to talk to you about, and you need to hear me out before you say anything, alright?"
"Sure Mate, whatever you want," Ron replied.
"I've been doing a lot of thinking over the last few days, especially at all the funerals that we've been attending. I've been thinking about life, actually, and what it means to live a happy life. I've been thinking about what I need to live a happy life.
"All I really know is that I certainly haven't been happy over the last year. I'm sure that you've both noticed?"
"Yeah, Harry, it's been kind of obvious," Ron said, wondering where this was leading.
"Well, all the while that we were on our quest for the horcruxes, I had one thing that kept me going. One thing kept me getting up in the morning when all else made me want to give up. One thing gave me the strength to do what had to be done. Can you guess what that was?"
"Love," Hermione stated from Ron's other side.
"That's right Hermione, just what Professor Dumbledore said. Love. Such a simple thing, and yet the hardest thing in the world to define. I never really understood what love was before, but this last year, and this last week has made me see like nothing else could. I understand now what it is to love; and I understand what it is to be alone.
"I've seen love blossom right before my eyes, between my two best friends." Hermione and Ron both blushed at this. "This isn't a bad thing guys," Harry rushed on. "It's about time the two of you realized what I've known for years. It's just that I want to have the same thing."
"What are you saying Harry?" Ron asked repetitiously…
"He's saying that he wants to get back together with Ginny, Ronald." Hermione said in an exasperated tone. "Really, are you that thick?"
"Oh," whispered Ron.
"Ron, she's the one that I love," Harry said, looking at his friend, a worried expression on his face. "I stayed away because I didn't want to get her killed by Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but now that it's over, well, I need her Ron.
"I've missed her so much. I mean, don't we deserve some happiness too?" He sighed. "I intend to ask her to take me back, if she'll have me that is."
"Of course she'll have you back, you blockhead," Ron replied. "You've been all she ever wanted since she was eleven years old, just like Hermione's been all I ever wanted. Look, if she says yes, I'm okay with it; but don't you go hurting her again. I'd hate to have to tell Mum that I killed her future son-in-law." Ron's grin was huge at this point.
Harry was grinning too now. He looked around and saw that they were where he needed to be: the edge of the Forbidden Forest next to Hagrid's hut. He pulled out his newly repaired wand "Accio Resurrection Stone!"
* * *
They apparated just outside the wards that were set around the Burrow. A glance showed Harry that Hermione was upset with him. He sighed, knowing ahead of time that he would have to deal with this sooner rather than later.
"Alright Hermione, out with it." He was met with a glare for his efforts. "You're upset that I got the stone back, aren't you?"
"You promised Harry," was her only response.
"And it's going right back after tonight. I need it to prove out a theory I have, and then it goes right back. I'm not chasing after ghosts like Dumbledore was…" He looked at her, his eyes pleading.
"Lay off of him Hermione," Ron interrupted. "If he wants to use the stone, well, I reckon he's the rightful owner. Hell, he got rid of Voldemort. Hasn't he earned the right?"
Hermione looked like she'd been slapped. "Of… of course he has Ron, I'm sorry Harry," she continued. She put her head down. Harry could see a single tear run down her cheek. He reached over to wipe it off. As she looked up at him he smiled.
"Hermione, I swear you have no idea what you mean to me. You have always been my rock, the anchor that kept me sane. You've been my big sister, you've shown me the love and caring that I never had growing up. If it weren't for you, I'd be dead. Just please remember one thing, I've learned a lot from you. I really do try to think things through now."
"I know Harry. I guess I'm just so used to being the conscience for you two that I slip into the role without thinking. Can you forgive me?"
"Already done Hermione. Now grab that big lug of a boyfriend of yours, and let's get inside." With that he started walking towards the door to the Burrow.
When they reached the door it swung open revealing the entire Weasley clan waiting for them. Ginny flew out the door and into Harry's waiting arms. It felt like she had never left them. He knew instantly that this was the feeling he needed most of all in his life.
With a gesture Harry led them all into the family room. He sat down on the sofa and motioned Ginny to sit next to him. "I think now is the time that I share with you all what has been going on for the last year." He reached inside his robes and pulled out his moleskin pouch. From inside it he pulled out a number of object and placed them on the coffee table in front of him: the elder wand, the resurrection stone, his invisibility cloak, his golden snitch and the Marauder's Map.
"Ron, Hermione, could you add a couple of items to this pile?" He waited while they added the Tales of Beedle the Bard, and the deluminator. "For you to understand what has happened we have to go back a ways in time. It starts with the tale of the Three Brothers Who Escaped Death and goes on from there." He quickly recounted the children's tale to the family.
"Harry dear, we all know this story, what does this have to do with the last year?" asked Mrs. Weasley.
Harry gestured to the table. "The three brothers were the Peverell brothers. You see before you on the table the artifacts from the tale. They really did exist. The elder wand went from owner to owner, while the resurrection stone and the invisibility cloak were passed down through family over all the years."
"You mean…" Ginny gasped.
"Yes, one of the Peverells was my ancestor, and this cloak was my Dad's. Tom Riddle was descended from one of the brothers as well. The stone was his fathers. The wand was Dumbledore's. He won it from Grindlewald during their battle in the 1940's." This was greeted by gasps from around the room.
"It was Ron that actually figured out about the cloak. He said he had always wondered about it. It never showed any wear despite being ancient. After doing a lot of research between funerals I've come to a couple of conclusions. I'll get to those in a little while." He proceeded to relate over the next couple of hours, helped by Ron and Hermione, the tale of their last year. When he was finished he looked up. All of the Weasleys were crying openly. Ginny was trembling so badly that she looked like she was going to shake right out of her shoes. He reached over and gave her a warm hug.
"You died Harry! You sacrificed yourself! How are you still here?" Ginny looked like she might faint at any moment. "How did you come back to us? To me?" she added quietly.
"It was a combination of factors. Like I said, I've been doing a lot of research the last few days. Firstly, while I was in limbo, deciding whether to go on or come back, Dumbledore told me…"
"Dumbledore told you?" Mr. Weasley interrupted.
"Yeah, I had a conversation with him. He figured that I was there because of the link of our blood between Voldemort and me. He figured that because of that link, and because he had been the one to cast the killing curse, the segment of Voldemort's soul had been the real victim of the curse. That was essentially correct, but I figure there was more to it than that. Another factor was that I was the rightful owner of the three Deathly Hallows.
According to everything I've read since, the true owner is truly the master of death, deciding when to move on on his own terms. But there was one other, vastly more important factor at play here."
"What was that Harry?" asked Ginny, hanging on his every word.
"You," Harry said simply.
"Me?" Ginny exclaimed.
"Yeah, you. For years this has been building to a climax. Think about this for a moment. You were the first person that I can actually remember placing my welfare above their own since my parents died protecting me." Ginny looked confused. "When I met you and your family at King's Cross six years ago," Harry continued, "you wished me luck." Heads nodded around the room.
"You also gave me one of my first happy memories. I remember you running along beside the train waving when we left. I treasure that moment." He smiled at her. "Before your first year you accidentally stuck your elbow in a butter dish in front of me. That was priceless. Then, when I saved you from the Chamber of Secrets something happened. Something I never suspected at the time, but something wonderful just the same."
"A bond was formed," Hermione supplied.
"Exactly, a bond formed between you and me, Ginny. Dumbledore explained to me after I saved Peter Pettigrew's life that when one wizard saves another's life it forms a bond. It is one of the oldest forms of magic. I just never put two and two together before."
"We're bonded?" Ginny asked. Harry nodded.
"Then in my fifth year we went to the Department of Mysteries. We all saved each other over and over, but for you and I, that first bond was already in effect. It was shortly after that when I first realized that I had feelings for you beyond just those of my best mate's little sister." He looked over at her parents. They were smiling at the two of them. "So on we go to last year. All throughout the year, the only thing that kept me going some nights was when I would take out this map," he picked up the map from the table.
"Hey, Fred and I gave that to you!" exclaimed George.
"Yeah, anyway, I would look for you in the map. Finding you would always calm me and give me the strength to go on. At the last battle, when I was leaving the castle to go to Voldemort I saw you. I almost stopped then, but thinking of you gave me the strength to do what I had to. At least by dying I could give you a better life. It was the one thing that allowed me to keep going." Tears were flowing down his face now, matched by those going down Ginny's cheeks.
"When Voldemort cast the killing curse, the only thing I could think of was you. It was our bond, and our love that brought me back from beyond Gin…"
"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love," quoted Hermione.
"Truer words were never spoken," said Mr. Weasley.
"Will you have be back Gin?" asked Harry.
Ginny was unable to speak. Nodding profusely she threw herself into his arms. They held each other tightly for a number of minutes until Harry gently disentangled himself from her and turned to her father.
"Mr. Weasley, there are things here that are beyond my ken, but I do know one thing. I love your daughter more than anything else in this world or beyond. There is too much uncertainty, too much confusion in our world at this time for me to be sure of anything but her and how I feel about her. We are bound together as surely as anything that I can know. I intend, with your permission of course, to ask for her hand in marriage."
There was stunned silence for a moment. It was broken by George's whoop of glee as he punched his fist in the air. Mr. Weasley and Harry looked at each other for a few moments. "Harry my boy, are you sure you want to do this?"
"She's too young, Arthur," Molly Weasley protested.
"She will be of age in a couple of months Molly," Arthur replied. "Are you absolutely sure you want this Harry?"
"As sure of it as I am of the fact that I am sitting here in this room. Your daughter and I have been through too much for any more uncertainty. In a couple of months she comes of age. If she will have me I intend for us to be married shortly thereafter. I will not have her returning to Hogwarts for her final year unsure of what lies in her future. Do I have your blessing?"
"If she will have you, of course you do Harry. You are as much our son now as you could be without it being official. If my Ginny wants to marry you then who am I to stand in her way?"
Harry looked at Mrs. Weasley. "I understand your concern Mrs. Weasley. Let me answer that and then you can have your say, okay?" He received a nod from Molly. "When Professor Dumbledore died last year I came to a decision. It wasn't a decision that I made lightly mind, but it was one that had some very serious repercussions. I chose to break off the relationship I had started with your daughter. I did that because I didn't want Voldemort to use that relationship against me and hurt her to get to me. I knew from first hand experience what that would mean both to me and to this family.
"At that time I really believed that there was no way I could win, but I knew that I had to try. So I therefore placed the greater good, the good of the wizarding world before my love for Ginny. I broke two hearts that day." He smiled sadly at Ginny. "Then, at the wedding I had to leave without even saying goodbye. I had no opportunity to communicate with Ginny, for fear that the Death Eaters would use any communication with her to hurt her and her family. This had the unfortunate side effect of never being able to let her know that I was alive. She had to live without that knowledge for almost a year.
"I had to content myself with gazing at the Marauder's Map and seeing her name there. I didn't know how she was doing. I didn't know if she had been the recipient of any unforgivable curses. I just knew that she was there. All I could think about was how they could be torturing her.
"Then I had to leave everything and everyone I love behind and walk calmly to my death. Unless you have been there you have no idea how that felt. All I could think about was Ginny, and hope to Merlin that she would be okay and be able to go on.
"So then I came back from the killing curse yet again, but this time I had to pretend I was dead. I had to watch all of your reactions, especially hers. That tore me up so much I almost gave things away right then and there, but I knew that the timing wasn't right and I couldn't expose Ginny to that danger at that point. Then I watched her, Hermione and Luna battling against Bellatrix and I almost died every time a curse just missed her. I can't begin to tell you how relieved I was when you killed that bitch. So anyway, that's my thoughts. Can you see why I can't stand to wait any longer before I attempt to set things right? Life is too short to waste anymore time on. I love her, I need her, and I want to spend my life with her." He waited expectantly for the explosion that never came. He was instead greeted with tears streaming down Molly Weasley's face.
Harry turned to Ginny. He pulled a box out of his robes and knelt down in front of her. He opened the box revealing a small ring. "Ginny Weasley, will you marry me?"
"Harry, I almost gave up hope a couple of years ago, but I have always dreamed of this. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!" She pulled him in for their first kiss in almost a year. It was everything they could have hoped for, that kiss. It was warm, it was caring, it was passionate. It conveyed all the hopes and dreams and cares of both of them. One look at the two of the was enough to convince all that were there that this was representative of all that was right in the world.
Harry slipped the ring on her finger. He kissed her quickly again. "Thanks love," he murmured. "Now, to test my theory on the bond." He reached over and grabbed the resurrection stone. He turned it over three times in his hand. Immediately there before him stood his mother and father. Ginny gasped next to him. "You can see them then?" he asked. She nodded in return. He heard Hermione gasp behind them. He didn't notice Ron pulling her into a hug as she gently sobbed into his shoulder. Nor did he notice as he slowly led her away.
"Mum, Dad, this is Ginny. I love her more than life itself. She's just agreed to marry me. I wanted you to meet her."
The two ghosts smiled at them. "Well it's about time that you finally admitted what we all knew Harry," his father said to him. "Hello Ginny, it's a pleasure to finally meet you. Harry, how can she see us?"
"I think we share a bond Dad. I saved her life years ago, and she has done the same for me a couple of years back. I just had to take care of 'your scaly little problem' before I could deal with the 'Potter curse'." Ginny looked at him with a puzzled expression while his father broke out in laughter.
"The Potter men have a remarkable tendency to fall for redheaded women, Ginny," Lilly said in response to her unasked question. Understanding dawned on Ginny's face and she nodded, smiling.
"Wait till Moony hears that one, Lilly," chortled James. "He'll love it. My scaly little problem! What a hoot!"
"Harry, you do realize that you can't keep on using the stone? You have to move on," Lilly said.
"I know Mum. I'm going to send it back into the forest when we finish. I had to use it to prove a point first. I'm also going to get rid of the elder wand. It's too much of a temptation to use. If word got out that I had it, I would be forever defending myself as people tried to steal it."
"I think that's quite wise Harry," his father stated. "No sense placing your fiancé in danger when you can avoid it."
"I quite agree," Harry said with a smile. "I love you both. Take care of each other, and tell Moony and Tonks that we're watching out for Teddy. He's quite a character."
"We will Harry, we love you too. Enjoy your time with Ginny. We'll see you again, somewhere down the road. It was great to meet you Ginny. Take care of our boy. If he's anything like his father you've got your hands full."
"Don't worry about me, I grew up with the twins. They followed in the Marauder's footsteps, and learned from two of them. If I could handle them, I can handle Harry."